SPORTS DESK : 14 AUGUST, 2023, 8:34 PM
Spain’s first Women’s World Cup semi-final in their history on Tuesday is reward for years of sacrifice, veteran forward Jennifer Hermoso says, admitting to “goosebumps” at the thought of reaching the final.
Opponents Sweden are regulars at this stage of the World Cup — without ever going on to lift the trophy — but for Spain they are into uncharted waters.
“If you don’t feel any nerves before a game like this then something is not right,” the 33-year-old Hermoso said on the eve of the semi-final in Auckland.
“It gives you goosebumps thinking about how close we are to the final, but first of all we have the game tomorrow and Spain will come out more determined than ever.”
Hermoso, who plays her club football in Mexico, has been representing her country for more than a decade and won her 100th cap earlier in the tournament.
“Tomorrow’s game is the consequence of millions of training sessions, of so many moments we have been through, of spending time far from our families and loved ones, of so much sacrifice,” she said.
“We have worked so hard to get here and I just want to enjoy it. I want the whole team to enjoy it and for the whole of Spain to be behind us.”
Spain and Sweden drew 1-1 in a friendly last October, just after 15 Spanish players told their federation they no longer wished to be considered for selection in protest at coach Jorge Vilda.
Vilda survived the rebellion and brought three of the rebels with him to the World Cup.
“We have a (federation) president who reacted bravely, who backed me and my staff,” he said on Monday.
“Now there is unity in the squad, everyone is getting on, they are ambitious and trying to enjoy every day.”
One of the players who returned to the squad is midfielder Aitana Bonmati and she has been one of the standouts at the tournament.
Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson believes it would be a mistake to focus too closely on trying to stop the Barcelona playmaker.
“The difficulty with Spain is that they have so many skilled players, whereas other teams might have just one or two stars, so that means making sure we mark them is very important,” he said.
– Swedes bank on experience –
Sweden captain Kosovare Asllani believes her team’s far greater experience of going far at major tournaments will give them the edge at Eden Park.
The Swedes have become regulars in the latter stages at recent competitions, having reached the last four at the 2019 World Cup and at last year’s European Championship.
They also made the final at the Tokyo Olympics before losing to Canada.
“We have the benefit of experience,” Asllani said.
“We have gone far in the last few tournaments but I am particularly pleased with the way we have done it this time.
“We have won our matches in different ways and it shows the strength of this team.”
Sweden reached a third semi-final in the last four World Cups by winning all three group games, ousting holders the United States on penalties and then beating Japan 2-1 in the last eight.
“Experience could be the key, but we are just raring to go and really looking forward to the game,” said Asllani.
“As far as I am concerned, now it is just about spreading the calm and enjoying the moment.” -BSS
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